I got out of Pittsburgh for a few days in June to visit my riding instructor/ inventor friend, Robin, who lives near Albany, New York. It was a relaxing getaway for a number of reasons.
Reason 1: I drove. My reasoning was that I wanted some time to think about various projects with a minimum of stress. Flying would add too much stress without giving me much thinking time. Besides, the weather was nice for driving, I stopped for some good meals, and I wasn’t on a schedule that day.
The only glitch happened because of my GPS device. These things are great most of the time, but just five minutes from my destination, mine decided to take me on a short cut, then didn’t know where it was. I stopped at the small post office to call, but I was in a dead zone for cell phone service. Finally, I called from the Taconic Parkway, and got directions. As I approached the house, Robin and Vic were out there waving at me so that I would be sure not to pass the house.
Reason 2: Robin’s house is in the aforementioned dead zone for cell phone service. I still had Internet access, but I wasn’t drawn to check my phone for messages every time I heard a bird chirp. A scant mile and a half down the road at the barn, I could get reception. I’m sure my carrier’s coverage had nothing to do with the spotty signal. I won’t tell you what carrier I use, but its initials are AT&T.
Reason 3: The barn and its occupants. Like me, my friend is an animal lover. Along with her two cats and one dog, she has a dozen chickens and two horses. Great gentle-souled beasts, Big John and Black Jack were a calming influence as I helped Robin muck out the paddock and give them fresh water.
I took it upon myself to feed and water the livestock by myself one morning because the Internet connection was down and I was at the barn anyway to check mail and messages, and Robin was down with a 24-hour bug. That was when I mistakenly tossed an extra flake of hay over the fence for each of my equine friends. Note: horses don’t care who feeds them, and if you accidentally give them a little bit more to eat than usual, they hold no grudges.
Reason 4: Old friends and new. I had a couple of meetings with prospective clients, both nicely facilitated by friends. Robin got me in to meet with the director of a local art academy. And my friend in Hyde Park, well-known Realtor Christine Jones (who knows everybody), arranged a meeting with a lovely couple who have a fascinating story to tell. The great thing about that dinner was the fact that both Robin and Christine knew the same people they did. “You know so-and-so? I knew so-and-so. He lived just around the corner from that other so-and-so.” It was old home week there for a while, but I got to talk a little business, too.
Reason 5: Advertising. I’ve long had an interest in advertising, having given lectures on the subject while teaching at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. I sat in while Robin met with designer Rich Kraham about revving up the marketing of her Whipwatch, a riding crop with a built-in timer. (Google it, it’s really cool.) Rich is very knowledgeable, and it was fun trading ideas and concepts.
Reason 6: Cat shaving. Mirabelle is a white, long-haired beauty with a gentle disposition. Her gentleness was mildly ruffled when she was shaved for the summer. (You remember, I hope, that this is a cat we’re talking about) The process looks like torture, but her mood was even nicer afterwards because she felt better. They took off everything but the hair on her head, legs, and the tip of her tail. She looked like a lion wearing leg warmers, but she felt cool enough to curl up and sleep with me that night.
Mirabelle’s new look had no effect on my friend, happy-go-lucky Maizie the pug. But the other cat, George, gave the newly shorn feline a wide berth. This served to prove that dogs evaluate the world mostly by scent, so Maizie wouldn’t have cared if Mirabelle had been shaved bald. But cats seem to get more information through their eyes, and that’s why it took George longer to adjust.
Reason 7: The bonfire. There’s nothing like sitting around a gentle fire. Well, this was nothing like a gentle fire. This conflagration was as tall as the house thanks to a neighbor adding some extra wood of his own. But it was well-contained and controlled. The adults drank wine and the kids toasted marshmallows and made s’mores. (The only reason I don’t go for s’mores is the mess factor. Chocolate in my hair is not a good look for me.)
That was also the night I felt a little like the ugly house guest. It had already been arranged that I would sleep in the room of Robin’s daughter, Aubrey, and she would sleep on the enclosed porch. However, because of the strength of the fire, it wasn’t even close to being out when everyone wanted to turn in. Someone would have to stand fire watch, which simply meant sleeping outside so as to be closeby if necessary. Because she’s college -age and ever the adventurer, Aubrey eagerly volunteered and wrapped herself in a sleeping bag and comforter. But I still pictured disapproving looks when I described my stay: Oh yes, I slept in the daughter’s room and she slept out in the yard.
Reason 7: Riding bareback. We had time for only one lesson, but it was a great experience. I hadn’t been on a horse for a couple years, and am in no way proficient. I felt a little vulnerable sitting atop Big John with no reins or saddle. Robin led us around and gave instructions. While I haven’t yet mastered changing from sitting light to sitting heavy (or staying centered for that matter), I did get John to turn right just by pulling back my right shoulder. This will take a lot of practice.
Reason 8: Visiting with daughter and son-in-law. I took a less direct route home because I went due west to Jamestown on Chautauqua Lake where I met Emma and Tony for dinner. Nice visit. Emma showed off her new phone, a BlackBerry Storm that Tony had given her. That’s one sleek device. Made me want to upgrade mine. We left the restaurant in a deluge, and part of the trip home was spent with the windshield wipers on max.
Technology did serve me well on that leg of the trip. On my GPS, I could see where I was on the map as I drove south on I-79, and on my phone, I could see the weather map and where all the rain was. Not that I could have avoided it, but at least I knew roughly when it would stop.
After pulling out of Robin’s driveway at just after 10:00 AM, I pulled into my garage at 9:00 on the dot that evening. I was tired, but it was a good tired. It had been a great trip, and I got to see most of the people I intended to. Unfortunately, my schedule didn’t match that of another friend near Utica. Guess I’ll just have to go back.